“Not a Cat: A Memoir”
Author: Winter Miller
Illustrator: Danica Novgorodoff
Tilbury House, $18.95; 4 years and over
A new memoir, “Not a Cat,” is “as told” to playwright Winter Miller. It features a feline called Gato who quickly establishes on Page 3 that he doesn’t feel the word “cat” describes him. After all, he walks around on a leash with a sweater (like a puppy). He runs fast through the pastures (like a horse). He eats grass (like a cow) and he loves flowers (like a bee). Not to mention his affinity for swimming in the lake (quack).
Young readers will love learning about Gato’s diverse activities accompanied by vibrant, unlined illustrations that chronicle Gato’s features, many of them resembling humans. Note his tour driving a taxi in San Francisco, his many subway trips around New York and his visit to Hollywood (“I wore my sunglasses at night”) where he enjoyed a milk cocktail accompanied of an umbrella.
Various other illustrations show Gato reading “Go Tell It on the Meowtain”, wearing high-top sneakers, and walking through the lobby of his house under a sampler that reads “You Be You”. The message of embracing individuality is the main attraction of this original offering. “Not a Cat” encourages everyone to celebrate diverse passions without worrying about labels.
Miller met Gato in 2008 at an animal shelter. He became her constant companion and traveled with her throughout New York City. He even took a trip to California and several writing retreats in the Adirondacks. He died in 2018. Miller wrote in a press release that “I encouraged Gato to be what others might call ‘a dog.’ play well with others. … From the first time we hit the streets of Brooklyn, it was clear that Gato was a magnet for people.
Miller is a former journalist and her work has been featured in The New Yorker, New York Magazine and NPR’s “Brian Lehrer Show”. Danica Novgorodoff is an artist, writer and graphic novelist. Her tracks include “A Long Way Down”, “Lily Chen’s Business”, “Refresh, Refresh”, and “Slow Storm”.
Brandy Hilboldt Allport writes Read All About It, a children’s book review column in the Florida Times-Union. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.